Tags: Bible, Christ, Epistle to the Romans, Evel Knievel, God, Idaho, Jesus, Snake River Canyon (Idaho)
One of the fads of 1970s America was the motorcycle jump. This trend reached its high (and low) point on September 8, 1974. Thousands of spectators gathered around the Snake River Canyon in Idaho to see if Evel Knievel could jump across the chasm in a specially designed “sky cycle.” In the end, however, it was unsuccessful. Knievel made it only part of the way across the gulf before his parachute deployed and he dropped to the canyon floor below. Some spectators asked, “How far across the canyon did he get?” But that wasn’t the point. He didn’t make it all the way across, so he fell short of his goal.
This scene is a good illustration of sin. The Bible talks about sin in Romans 3:23, where Paul declared, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” No one is capable of bridging the gap between God and ourselves by our own efforts, but the Savior came to do just that on our behalf. Christ perfectly fulfilled God’s standards, then gave His life on the cross to pay for our failure and wrongdoing. Where we could only fall short, Christ’s work, offered in love, accomplished all that was needed.
Our response is to trust Him and receive this matchless gift of salvation.
Tags: Advent, Apostle Paul, Bill Murray, God, Groundhog Day, Lord, Pennsylvania, Punxsutawney Pennsylvania
But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power.
One of my all-time favorite movies in Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray as Phil Connors, a self-centered weatherman who ends up trapped in a time warp. He is stuck in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, for Groundhog Day, the same Groundhog Day over and over and over again. After satisfying his hedonistic pleasures, Phil begins to grow into a person committed to helping others. For example, from experience, he knows that at precisely 11:05 a.m., a boy will fall out of a tree onto the sidewalk. So Phil makes sure to be there at exactly the right moment to catch the boy, saving him from serious injury. But, every single time, the boy runs away without even acknowledging Phil. In one scene, Phil laments, “That’s right. Never thank you, not once. You never say thank you.”
Things like this happen all the time, not just in the movies. This should not surprise us. In fact, the Apostle Paul informs us that ingratitude is to be expected in “the last days,” that is, in the days between the ascension of Christ and his return. People will act in all sorts of terrible ways and will be, among other deplorable things, “ungrateful” (2 Tim. 3:2).
What is the cost of ingratitude? To be sure, one cost accrues to the person who deserves thanks. In Groundhog Day, Phil Connors is deprived of the recognition and gladness he should receive from the boy he saved. When we fail to thank God, God loses out on the recognition that he rightly deserves. So, ingratitude wrongs the one who should have received thanks.
But there is another penalty that is paid when we are ungrateful. We lose the opportunity to delight in the blessings of our lives. We deny ourselves the joy that comes to us when we give others the joy that comes from our thanks. Ingratitude deprives the one who should offer thanks of a deeper, richer, fuller experience of life’s goodness.
So, ingratitude hurts the one who should receive thanks and the one who should give it. Not surprisingly, therefore, it also fails to nourish the relationship between the two parties. Whereas, a word of thanks can build intimacy and trust; thanks neglected creates distance and guardedness.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Have you experienced some of the costs of ingratitude? Are there times you forget to thank the Lord? Are there people in your life whom you need to thank, for their sake, for your sake, and for the sake of your relationship? When and how will you thank these people?
PRAYER: Gracious God, I don’t want to be one of those people described in 2 Timothy 3. I don’t want to be ungrateful. Yet, I know there are times when I fail to thank you for your blessings. There are also times I forget to thank others. I can get so busy, so focused, that I just don’t stop to say a simple “Thank you.”
Forgive me, Lord, for my ingratitude. Tenderize my heart, so that I might feel grateful when I am the recipient of goodness. Remind me, Lord, to thank you and to thank others…starting right now. Amen.
P.S. from Mark – Beginning with this coming Sunday, December 2, we will enter the season of Advent. This time of year helps us prepare for a richer experience of Christmas as we get in touch with just how much we need a Savior. I have been privileged to work with my colleagues in Laity Lodge Youth Camp and Laity Lodge Family Camp on the production of an Advent Family Devotional Guide. This guide will help you, your family, and your friends deepen your experience of God during Advent. We are giving away a PDF copy of this guide. Click here to download the 2012 Advent Devotional.
Tags: Christ, Christian, Christianity, Galilee, God, Jesu, Lord, Sea of Galilee
Experiencing God Despite the Distractions
In the normal course of things a certain number of distractions are bound to come to each one of us; but if we learn to be inwardly still these can be rendered relatively harmless. It would not be hard to compile a long list of names of Christians who carried upon their shoulders the burden of state or the responsibilities of business and yet managed to live in great inward peace with the face of the Lord in full view. They have left us a precious legacy in the form of letters, journals, hymns and devotional books that witness to the ability of Christ to calm the troubled waters of the soul as He once calmed the waves on the Sea of Galilee. And today as always those who listen can hear His still, small voice above the earthquake and the whirlwind.
While the grace of God will enable us to overcome inevitable distractions, we dare not presume upon God’s aid and throw ourselves open to unnecessary ones. The roving imagination, an inquisitive interest in other people’s business, preoccupation with external affairs beyond what is absolutely necessary: these are certain to lead us into serious trouble sooner or later. The heart is like a garden and must be kept free from weeds and insects. To expect the fruits and flowers of Paradise to grow in an untended heart is to misunderstand completely the processes of grace and the ways of God with men. Only grief and disappointment can result from continued violation of the divine principles that underlie the spiritual life.
Tags: God, Jesu, Luke, Moses, New King James Version, NKJV, NLT, Old Testament
“Make everything according to the pattern I have shown you.” Ex 25:40 NLT
The second element that marked the building of the Old Testament tabernacle was excellence. God condemns perfectionism because it stifles our creativity and robs us of all sense of progress. And Jesus condemned those who gave to impress others. “When you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward” (Mt 6:2 NKJV). But if you think this means you can just offer God anything you feel like, you’re sorely mistaken. When it comes to serving, God wants you to aspire to excellence. God said to Moses: “And this is the offering which you shall take from them: gold, silver, and bronze…And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them. According to all that I show you, that is, the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furnishings, just so you shall make it” (Ex 25:3-9 NKJV). Why did God ask for gold? Because He won’t accept anything sloppy or second-rate. Guess where Jesus sat when He went to church? Beside the treasury, watching people give. Luke records: “Then a poor widow came by and dropped in two small coins. ‘I tell you the truth,’ Jesus said, ‘this poor widow has given more than all the rest of them. For they have given a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she has’” (Lk 21:2-4 NLT). So, give God your best!
Tags: Christianity, God, Jesus, Jesus Christ, Lord, Religion and Spirituality, Saviour, Second Coming of Christ
Our days are few, and are far better spent in doing good, than in disputing over matters which are, at best, of minor importance. The old schoolmen did a world of mischief by their incessant discussion of subjects of no practical importance; and our Churches suffer much from petty wars over abstruse points and unimportant questions. After everything has been said that can be said, neither party is any the wiser, and therefore the discussion no more promotes knowledge than love, and it is foolish to sow in so barren a field. Questions upon points wherein Scripture is silent; upon mysteries which belong to God alone; upon prophecies of doubtful interpretation; and upon mere modes of observing human ceremonials, are all foolish, and wise men avoid them. Our business is neither to ask nor answer foolish questions, but to avoid them altogether; and if we observe the apostle’s precept (Titus 3:8) to be careful to maintain good works, we shall find ourselves far too much occupied with profitable business to take muc h interest in unworthy, contentious, and needless strivings. There are, however, some questions which are the reverse of foolish, which we must not avoid, but fairly and honestly meet, such as these: Do I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ? Am I renewed in the spirit of my mind? Am I walking not after the flesh, but after the Spirit? Am I growing in grace? Does my conversation adorn the doctrine of God my Saviour? Am I looking for the coming of the Lord, and watching as a servant should do who expects his master? What more can I do for Jesus? Such enquiries as these urgently demand our attention; and if we have been at all given to cavilling, let us now turn our critical abilities to a service so much more profitable. Let us be peace-makers, and endeavour to lead others both by our precept and example, to “avoid foolish questions.”